Hurricane Matthew: Evacuated & Safe

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Freaky skull hidden within Hurricane Matthew…

I wrote a couple days ago that we might have to evacuate due to Hurricane Matthew.  Many of you offered some really kind words, and I really appreciate the positive thoughts and prayers.  The good news is I am writing this from Georgetown, Kentucky—so obviously we did end up evacuating.  Here’s a brief recap.

Our governor, Nikki Haley, announced that evacuations would begin on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (EST).  We decided to fuel up our vehicles as soon as this was announced, and it’s a good thing we did.  We took the car to the gas station about 20 minutes after hearing the potential evacuation order, and it still took almost an hour of line-time to get gasoline.

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Image from the Miami Herald.  Linked to article.

After dealing with the chaos of simply getting gas, we decided not to wait until Wednesday to leave.  We got home and started packing.  Unfortunately, we still had to wait for the base (where my wife works) to give us permission.  Permission came at around 7 p.m. that evening.  Thor’s bedtime is 8 p.m., and we figured we should leave then so he would sleep for most of the trip.

Here are some of the things that were involved in the mad rush to leave.

  • We had to ensure we had all essential documents with us. We placed a special emphasis on having our home-owner insurance (we have a portable safe for documents).
  • Anything outside of the house (i.e. grill, metal firepit, flower pots) had to be brought indoors so they wouldn’t be tossed through windows.
  • Anything essential that could be destroyed by water, we moved to a center room with no windows and put them at elevation.  This probably won’t matter if we get nine feet of storm surge, but hey, you can’t blame us for trying.
  • As my desktop computer is pretty essential to my work, it came with us.
  • We didn’t worry about stockpiling water, food, and propane as we were going to leave.
  • We did bring diapers, baby food, cat food, and a small amount of food and water in case we were delayed during the evacuation.
  • Given my wife has been freezing excess breast-milk in the hopes of being able to stop pumping a little early, we brought that with us.  A prolonged power outage will ruin the contents of our freezer and fridge.

niblet-and-meThe drive from South Carolina to Kentucky usually takes us about eight hours.  In the first five hours of travel time, we had barely moved.  I wasn’t upset about this.  I was happy people had the sense to evacuate.  All told, it took us twelve hours to get to Georgetown (my mother-in-law lives there).

During the trip, Niblet (our cat) would start meowing, then Thor would start making noise, and vice versa.  Basically, if one was awake, they were both awake.  They both slept like champs if we were moving, but much of our travel time was spent in stop-and-go traffic.

Some people evacuated to hotels, but with a baby and a cat, this would be pretty inconvenient. Also, if the coastline really gets thrashed, it would be costly to be in a hotel for a few weeks.

With 200+ people dead in Haiti and the Caribbean already, I really hope people are taking this hurricane seriously.  We can argue about the infrastructure of Haiti compared to the US, but if you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a serious weather event, you’ll know infrastructure doesn’t matter to Mother Nature.

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If you are staying on the coast, my prayers are with you.  Matthew has surged in power as it moves toward Florida.  Gaining in strength back to a Category 4.  From the National Hurricane Center, a Category 4 is described as:

“Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

My academic training in homeland security has taught me to not take these things lightly.  Also, my job a Navy journalist, photographer, and combat cameraman has shown me first-hand the destruction and loss of life extreme weather events cause.  I promise you, nothing in your home is worth your life.  Please be safe and don’t take unnecessary risks.

Regardless, I should be back on track for posting and work now that I’m safely in Kentucky.  I am going to still take a day or two to do maintenance. I will recycle older posts in the meantime.  Until then – stay safe.

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100th Post: Updates, Maintenance & Lessons Learned

100 Posts.jpgToday marks 100 posts here at QE.  It’s an important milestone for me.  With the exception of a single holiday and previous maintenance weekend, I’ve managed to provide new content each and every day.

More so, I’ve really busted my butt to provide in-depth content (around 1000 words each post) packed with external resources to enhance the information.  We’ve covered a lot of ground, and I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do here with all of you.  I’ve learned a lot from our collaboration so far.

toolsWith that being said, it’s time for maintenance and some updates.   Having a 100 posts in the bank is stellar, but I need to ensure new arrivals to the page can navigate and find the resources they seek.  One thing I’ve learned from this journey is the more posts you have archived the harder sweeping updates can be.  To alleviate this I am going to take a weekend every month (the 1st weekend) and devote it to organizing the page.  This should ensure blog posts are categorized correctly and navigation is simple.

I also want to use those periods to study the analytics of my page.  I love talking about writing, but I want to be sure I’m covering subjects you all want to read about and that provide you the tools you need to improve your craft.  The best way of figuring this out is really taking some time to analyze my site statistics and content.  When you have 100+ posts this is time consuming.

voting.pngDuring these maintenance periods I am going to be offering a poll.  This will allow me to collect feedback from all of you.  Outside of analyzing site statistics, this is the easiest way for me to know what information you are all craving and what elements I am forgetting to cover.

I started this site on June 6th and the page has grown drastically in readership thanks to all of you.  This is great, but it also presents new challenges.  The biggest challenge is one of time.

The more time I spend on my page, the less time I get to browse and interact on others.  I want to keep my fingers on the pulse of WordPress.  It’s the best tool I have to find out what people are interested in and what challenges they are facing in their writing.  This awareness allows me to generate relevant content.  Recently, I haven’t been able to find the time to do this.

To manage time, and my page, here are some of the changes I am implementing.  Daily posting is here to stay, but I’m going to manage and organize it a little better.

  • Monday:  Book blurb day.  I’ve read more than twenty books on writing since I started this page.  Every now and then I toss together a collage and write a blurb about a book. (My “reads” category contains examples.)  It’s not really a review, but an insight about the content of the book.  Now that I have a nice stockpile of read material, I will start generating a collage and blurb every week.  Again, this is my way of offering you all the resources I can and populating the page with useful content.
  • Tuesday: I will publish a new post like normal.
  • Wasteland Wednesday should be a permanent entity on this page.  Even after Wastelander: The Drake Legacy publishes next year, it’s the first in a very long Wastelander series.  Unless I land a publisher who prevents me from continuing this, it’s here to stay.
  • Thursday: I will publish a new post like normal. Feature Friday.jpg
  • Feature Friday.  I want to take a day each week and highlight a post from another blogger who is generating well-written and insightful writing tips.  It’s always disheartening to me when I find an informative post written about the craft that has been sitting for hours/days with no likes or comments.  If you are sitting there reading this and thinking, “Hey! He’s talking about me.”  Contact me and I will add you to my reblog list.  I am fortunate to have great readership here at QE, and if my success can propel others it’s a small way for me to give back.
  • Saturday and Sunday will be my personal re-post days.  Recycling previous posts will help people new to the site or to WordPress connect with my older content.  It also helps me.  It allows me to continuously edit, improve, and add links to my archived material.  I learn a lot from my discussions with all of you, my work as an editor, and my labors as a writer.  I want to be sure my past posts reflect newfound knowledge and continue to be relevant.

As for the here and now, my next blog day will be this Wednesday.  I’m taking a two day celebratory vacation from the blog-o-sphere.  Then it’s back to business as usual.

thanks.pngLastly, I want to thank all of you.  I never would have guessed my page would be able to resonate with so many people.  This collaboration we have has really energized my own writing and love of the craft.  I’m looking forward to continuing on with this writing journey together.  Until Wednesday, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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The Image Swap: Update Complete

toolsWhew.  What a weekend.  Major changes have occurred throughout the page.  I thought a post covering the changes and offering some blogging “advice” might be warranted.  Advice is in quotations because this is coming from a blogging amateur.  If I was a pro, I wouldn’t have been chasing my tail all weekend.

First and foremost, I removed and replaced all potentially copyrighted imagery from my page.  This took a long time with some 100+ images being swapped out.  As I’ve recently added my services page to my website, my page has shifted from purely educational (Fair Use) to a more commercial application.  Now that my page could be viewed as a commercial entity, copyrighted images are a problem.  I also plan to sell my books here someday too, which would have been another potential heartache.

Here are some image finding solutions.

online searchIf you are going to use Google, or any image search engine, to find an image, go to search tools and change the “usage rights” to “labeled for reuse.”  These are public domain images.  If you are going to alter them (i.e. add text) then you need to select, “labeled for reuse with modification.”

Pixabay and Shutterstock are two solid search tools to find free, public domain images.

Most of the imagery found on Wikipedia is public domain.  That is GIANT pool of images to search from.  You can go to Wikimedia to use their search tool.  I would recommend double checking the user privileges.

A host of the images searched for online come from artist generated sites like DeviantArt.  Many of those artists have copyrighted their imagery.  You can shoot the individual artist an email and often times they will give you the green light.  It’s possible, but it’s tedious.

Waiting for an Email

I contacted three different gif websites in regards to utilizing gifs on my blog page (because gifs make me happy).  Their “terms of use” pages are super complex.  I’m not a legal beagle, but it appears there is potential for copyright infringement in some applications.  If I ever get contacted back I will share what I find out in a later post.

For quote images I went with AZquotes.  According to their terms page, as long as you provide a link back to their page from the image you can use them for whatever you want.  However, you can’t use them as a giant list (i.e. you can’t make a “Top 20” quotes and link 20 of their images in a row).  Below is an example of what their content looks like, linked as per their terms page.  It’s a suitable quote for this blog post.

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You’ll notice in my sidebar I have created a bunch of meme-like photos using older images.  I found most of these courtesy of the New York Public Library.  They have digitized thousands of historic images.  If the image predates 1923 then you are golden (that’s a U.S. rule).  I have linked their search tool here.  They do ask that you reference them so they can keep track of where their images are being used.  It helps them keep getting money to digitize content.  I linked their information into my images metadata like a boss.

Below is a smattering of the images I made to replace memes I had used in my earlier blog posts.  If you want higher resolution images you can go to my sidebar and jump to my Flickr page.  All the images I create are free to share and are sourced from the public domain (i.e. they aren’t copyrighted images I’ve altered).

Most of my created images will be writing oriented, so feel free to use them in your own posts.  I’m not going to sue you.  If you do use them, give me a nod if you would (link them back so I know what people are using and can continue creating applicable content).  As tedious as this whole process was, it was a LOT of fun making these silly images and I look forward to creating more for future blog posts.

 

 

QE logoI have embedded these images with metadata and also added my new trademarked logo to them (fancy huh?).  It’s what my profile image has been changed to as well.  The idea is that all roads should lead back to Rome.  Or in my case, to this blog.  I’m trying to swap out fishing line for dynamite!  We’ll see how it goes.

Other changes to the blog are subtle.  The categories have been cleaned up and some have been removed entirely.  I’m sure I will continue to tweak things here and there.  I also added the services page I mentioned above.

Before you all roll your collective eyes and call me a sell-out, just know this is the last you will hear of me referencing services I provide in blog posts.  I won’t be spamming the walls with editorial ads.  I recently started my own editing business (Quintessential Editing LLC) and moved away from the giant freelance websites I talked about in this post.  I’m excited to not have to deal with middlemen, do the type of editing I want to do, and be able to focus more on quality than quantity.

That’s it for the updates.  I PRAY this is the last time I have to do a major website revision.  Tomorrow we can get back on track with writing tips, rants, and tomfoolery.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Weekend Maintenance #1

maintenanceJust a quick update to my daily viewers, and anyone else who stumbles across this.  I’m going to be doing maintenance and overhaul this weekend so posting will resume on Monday.  This page started on June 5th and it’s already sporting 75+ posts.  I’m noticing on my tracking that many of you are going pretty deep into some of the content, which is great.  It’s time to take a weekend and organize everything better.

I‘ll still be stalking your pages, I just won’t be adding any content until I resolve the issues I’m listing below.  As a side note, I’m listing these items for transparency.  After the reception I received on my post about how I blog, I thought some of you may be interested in what I’m doing to maintain the page.

Things that will change:

  1. Improved categories for easier navigation from home page.
  2. Linking pages together.  Throughout time I’ve presented different concepts.  As with most things in writing, there are overlaps.  I want to be sure to link pages together for easier navigation (i.e. if someone is interested in archetypes, I wan’t to ensure all posts regarding archetypes have links embedded to point readers toward applicable information if they want it).
  3. Revamp of all applicable images to ensure all information is shareable (i.e. removal/replacement of any potential images that could cause copyright infringement issues in the future).
  4. Additional page of information regarding services I provide as I transition from online freelancing to small business ownership.  This should save people the trouble of emailing me and will cover the questions I’m most commonly asked.
  5. cyborg.jpgUpdate to page listing my book Wastelander and corresponding novella The Wasteland Survival Guide.
  6. My cyborg clone should be coming to life Monday and will assist in day-to-day operations.  It took 278 boxes of Cracker Jacks, one chipped tooth, and three cavities, but I finally got the prize I was looking for: a Palladium mini-arc reactor.  With this in place, my cyborg clone should now have sufficient power to assist me.  (I wish…)

That’s it!  For all of you who stop by regularly, I can’t tell you how great it is talking about something I am passionate about with you.  For those of you who are just wandering in, brace yourselves, Monday is coming.  Until Monday, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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